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The Changing Economic Circumstances of the Elderly: Income, Wealth, and Social Security

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  • James P. Smith

Abstract

How is the economic status of the elderly changing and what are their prospects for the future? My portrait tells us how well off they are on average, but also about the vast disparities that exist among them. This description includes an often neglected measure of their economic well-being--the amount of wealth they control. Amazingly little is known about howmuch personal wealth older people have and how and what determines its distribution. But the conventional definition of household wealth ignores two critical components of wealth: the expected income flows from pensions and Social Security. For some elderly households, Social Security represents the largest part of their wealth. I conclude with some thoughts on one of the most sensitive and critical public policy issues--the necessity of reforming Social Security.

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File URL: http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/cpr/publications/pb8.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University in its series Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs with number 8.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: May 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:max:cprpbr:008

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  1. Smith, James P, 1998. "Socioeconomic Status and Health," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 192-96, May.
  2. Glenn R. Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 3-95, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  3. Richard V. Burkhauser & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1994. "Social Security Reform: A Budget Neutral Approach to Reducing Older Women's Disproportional Risk of Poverty," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 2, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  4. James Smith & Raynard Kington, 1997. "Demographic and economic correlates of health in old age," Demography, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 159-170, February.
  5. James P. Smith, 2004. "Wealth Inequality Among Older Americans," Labor and Demography 0403003, EconWPA.
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Cited by:
  1. Matilda White Riley, 1998. "The Hidden Age Revolution: Emergent Integration of All Ages," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 12, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  2. C. D. Zick & K. Holden, . "An Assessment of the Wealth Holdings of Recent Widows," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1188-99, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  3. Clinton Lively, 2001. "Merrill Lynch & Co.: process risk management program," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  4. Jane Sneddon Little & Robert K. Triest, 2002. "The impact of demographic change on U. S. labor markets," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Q 1, pages 47 - 68.

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